While large companies have huge marketing budgets, we found that most of the smaller businesses we work with don’t have this luxury. If you’re like many business owners, it’s essential to make every dollar and certainly every $100 go as far as possible. This means making certain choices. There are many ways to invest in marketing, advertising, and promotional techniques. However, with a limited budget, it’s crucial to find the approach that gives you the best possible ROI. We partnered with reputation management leader Yext to help businesses around the globe facilitate face-to-face interactions that boost brand awareness, drive foot traffic, and increase sales. All at a price that’s affordable for even the smallest business. So, what’s the best way to invest $250/month in your marketing budget? Let me explain why I’d choose to allocate most of this budget towards reviews and reputation management.
The Importance of Trust
Many business owners, when they think of marketing their business, think first of advertising. It makes sense to get your message in front of as many potential customers as possible. However, this approach ignores something important about today’s customers. Trust is one of the biggest factors in business today. The average person sees hundreds of ads every day. Because of this, people often tune out promotional messages. They’re also more discerning and suspicious. They don’t want to read and hear what you say about your own business. They want objective evidence that they can trust you. That’s why customer reviews and reputation management are so crucial for today’s businesses.
Building Trust With Reviews
Online reviews are one of the most important factors for building a trustworthy reputation. Not that long ago, reviews were mainly for certain types of businesses, such as restaurants and hotels. People have long relied on reviews in the hospitality industry and this is at least as true now as ever before. Now, however, almost every type of business gets reviewed.
Whether you’re a dentist, plumber, real estate broker, veterinarian or hair stylist, there are lots of sites that publish customer reviews on your type of business. Some of the most popular of these are Google (Google reviews are tied in with Google Maps and Google My Business), Yelp, Angie’s List, and Yellow Pages. There are also more specialized review sites. Sites such as Avvo and Lawyers.com, for example, publish reviews of attorneys. When a potential customer learns about a business, one of the first things he or she is likely to do is look up reviews.
Tips for Reputation Management
Even when businesses recognize the importance of reviews and online reputation, they often don’t believe that there’s much they can do about it. Reviews, after all, are written by customers and published on third-party sites. Short of unethical tactics that can get your business blacklisted on review sites (e.g. publishing fake reviews), what can you do to build, maintain, or repair your reputation? It turns out that there are quite a few steps you can take.
- Optimize your listings on review sites. The first step for getting reviews is to make sure you’re listed on sites such as Google My Business, Yelp and any others that are relevant for your industry. The best place to start is Google, as this is also essential for local SEO. It’s also essential to make sure that your listings are correct and well-optimized for the search engines. One of the best tools to check your online presence on over 40 directory sites is our Online Marketing Snapshot.
- Request reviews. One of the simplest yet most effective ways to get more reviews for your business is to request them. If you have a retail business or office, place a sign near the cashier or receptionist’s counter, such as “Find us on Yelp.” You can also place such messages on business cards, flyers, appointment reminder cards. Our clients can send email and SMS text messages to collect customer reviews through their own custom dashboard. (Last month, we collected over 30 reviews for our clients)
- Use review site buttons online. Make it easy for customers to find your review pages by placing buttons such as the Google Reviews Widget on your website and social media pages.
- Provide excellent customer service and address problems quickly. Naturally, the better your product or service, the easier it is to get positive reviews. Equally important is providing exceptional customer support. People who feel ignored or taken for granted are the ones most likely to leave negative reviews. If someone does leave a bad review, you may be able to remedy the situation by solving the problem or giving the customer a refund or credit.
- Monitor your reputation. To manage your reputation, it’s necessary to know what people are saying about you. At the very least, set up a Google Alert for your business so you know right away when someone publishes a review or comments about you online.
These are some of the best tactics to manage and build your online reputation. You can either handle these tasks yourself or work with an agency that handles reputation management. If you have a limited budget, putting it into this area is a wise choice. When people trust you, there’s less need to advertise. Customers start to recommend you to their friends and family. Your reviews provide powerful social proof that your business is trustworthy. And optimizing your online listings can account for up to 30% of your SEO. That’s why I recommend putting your first $250 each month towards reputation management.
To find out how Allison’s Alligator and our partnership with Yext can make your business more successful with online reputation management and local reviews, contact us for a free consultation.